The Disappearance of Senjougahara (Bakemonogatari 09)

bakemonogatari 09 senjougahara rooftop

Something bothers me a bit when a piece gets too clever for its own good.

Where the hell is Senjougahara? Why is Araragi spending so much time with other girls? So much so that Hanekawa can admonish him for it — in a manner of delicious baiting. So yes, this show evokes a harem dynamic and is rather obvious about it; but it still raises my eyebrows at how Senjougahara conveniently disappeared in this episode that allows this harem dynamic to operate.

After all, they got together very early on in the narrative. The relationship, post confession, isn’t a prize at the end of the conflict’s resolution. Rather, it’s the subject — and is subjected to different stresses. In Suruga Monkey, the relationship is exposed: in terms of inequity of responsibility (or at least thoughfulness); the complexities of selfishness and selflessness; and the inauthenticity of trust and/in promises to each other.

bakemonogatari 09 hanekawa kiss

Bakemonogatari is interesting in that it chooses to deal with these rather than make the show about arriving at the ‘yes’ as responses to confessions of love. It’s very confident, cheeky actually, for making such a powerful confession scene (at the resolution of Mayoi Snail). What is the story of relationships after yes, after I do? I know. I’ve been married for a few years. It can be less about externalities such as third parties and the like, but more of how different the partners start treating each other — growing into roles, and the like.

The show did this at the resolution of Suruga Monkey. But the question is: how can this be sustained? The harem dynamics as a relationship pressure, to me is a cheap way to do it. It’s too easy for a show that to me has been playing on hard mode. This is what I felt while watching the episode, at first while seeing Araragi hang out with Hanekawa after spending a day with Kanbaru, then when Hanekawa started lecturing him, and then when Araragi spends even more time with Kanbaru and the whole onii-chan business involving Nadeko.

bakemonogatari 09 araragi kanbaru arms locked

Senjougahara, do you know where your boyfriend is and what he’s been doing?

Apparently, yes. Kanbaru asked Araragi if Senjougahara told him anything about the errand he’s doing (suspiciously not with Senjougahara, but with her instead) and Araragi said no. On the other hand, Senjougahara asked Kanbaru to “try her hardest to act cute.”

While this is somewhat consistent with Senjougahara’s teasing behavior, more than anything it’s a convenience on the part of the narrative to indulge the harem dynamic. I should say here that while not being a fan of harem works, I don’t think they are bad categorically. In this case, I just see it as a cheap way to indulge fanservice that it doesn’t really need to force.

bakemonogatari 09 araragi kanbaru arms locked 2

The fanservice is already in our faces; overt and upfront. Why try this ‘subtlety’ now?

If Araragi-kun gives you any troble, give me all the details. I’ll let you pick which is worse for him: being buried in the mountains or sunk beneath the sea.

There is a perspective that sort of works for me: Senjougahara may have forgiven Araragi for not keeping to their agreement to not withhold business regarding oddities (monsters) to each other, and for getting himself in mortal danger in the process (this is a bigger deal than I’ve discussed, think about it — it’s severe); but she’s still going to get even. She won’t have a problem making Kanbaru useful for her purposes at all.

Picking on Araragi is almost second nature to her anyway.

So this baiting behavior by Senjougahara allows for all the come-ons, innuendos, and general temptation that Araragi will experience in the show. Hanekawa lampshades this (it’s like the show saying “yeah we know what we’re doing, it’s intentional and please take it as all cool and shit”) by giving Araragi a lecture on indulging himself with the company of other women (she was right to be surprised that Araragi asked her and not Senjougahara to pick out reference books — Araragi explains this away by making itabout surprising Senjougahara that he’s serious about getting into university).

bakemonogatari 09 hanekawa come hitherbakemonogatari 09 araragi hanekawa kiss

The show runs with this by making nearly every encounter Araragi has with a female an audiovisual banquet of fanservice. If I were to keep score, Hanekawa, Hachikuji, Shinobu, and now Nadeko… if Araragi indulges himself with the company of these females — it’s on him. He’s not technically cheating, but his behavior is unseemly. Kanbaru is exempted in part because Senjougahara is using her to bait him. At some level I feel that she wants him to fail. The inauthenticity of Senjougahararagi continues.

bakemonogatari 09 nadeko bloomers nakedbakemonogatari 09 araragi kanbaru reaction guys poseI noticed the reaction guys pose thanks to Kiri.

Maybe the show will indulge another conceit: Araragi gets himself into trouble again — his hero/messiah/save anyone traits will always get him into trouble and it will be up to Senjougahara to enter every third act of the arcs to save the day and teach him about how to love her. It’s not a bad conceit, though to be honest my attitude towards the contrivance will vary from day to day (when I’m thinking about the show it annoys me, when I’m seeing Senjougahara do awesome shit I’m anything but annoyed).

Oh yeah, before I forget to mention this entirely, Senjougahara did not make a ‘live’ appearance in this episode. She’s talked about and even quoted, but she does nothing here. It’s the first time it ever happened.

A personal note

I realize that I identify with Araragi more than I’d like, in light of what I’ve been saying about how his character is written to be some kind of commentary about the shows viewers (or the light novel’s readers). It’s not a flattering picture. However, I do find myself very indulgent of people who seek me out and share with me their concerns. I find myself ever willing to lend an ear to people I hardly know.

If only these were hawt haremettes rather than otaku wwwww (no offense, guys), I really am that interested in people though. Then again if these sausages were indeed hawt haremettes my own wife may have at me with more than just stationery.

Further Reading

A consideration of ‘happily ever afters’ in anime and manga [->]

The anatomy of romantic arcs in shoujo (biankita 2008/12/05)

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, Bakemonogatari and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to The Disappearance of Senjougahara (Bakemonogatari 09)

  1. digitalboy says:

    Sounds like this episode was the embodiment of what the show has consistently done to keep me at arm’s length. I can’t help but feel like ‘I figured as much.’

    • I don’t think I’m suggesting that the show is bad. It takes some thinking through before these things can get annoying for me, and there’s the strength of the characterization of the two main leads that more than makes up for this annoyance.

      • TheBigN says:

        Since Shinbo is trying to adapt the source as well as he can, some fault has to lie on Nisioisin’s part (and for what it’s worth, I liked the lampshading on what Koyomi is unintentionally – or intentionally – doing), though with SHAFT’s touch on things such as fanservice, it doesn’t help the cause. Though what’s the cause again?

        • I don’t know what cause you are referring to, my cause is to enjoy everything ^_~

          While I am sympathetic to what you believe in terms of assigning blame, I don’t indulge it. It’s not that I’m not interested in the makers of a work, only that I interface with the work and not its makers so I limit my discussion to the work itself. Hence, my language in the post only uses “the show does this, the show tells me this, etc.” and not Shinbo, NisioisiN, scriptwriter #2, editor #3, or whomever it is I can’t identify really.

          In the end I have the show, maybe if I interview any of them I can ask who people can blame, but I don’t think I’m as interested in it as others might be.

      • digitalboy says:

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what you are suggesting that has happened in this ep, either. It’s just that this episode seems to encompass that very feeling of somehting I’m all too accustomed to that has kept me at bay from it.

  2. Panther says:

    Reaction guys, I saw it as well when I saw a screenshot first, and was like, this looks familiar.

    Otherwise yeah WTF, SHAFT is really laying on the thickness of teasing with this episode, especially with Nadeko at the end.

    Also there is a double negative in your post “I don’t don’t think” somewhere up there. :D I personally do not mind that Senjougahara is not in this episode at all – as you said, she was baiting Araragi with Kanbaru (who is lesbian anyway and thus has no real interest other than following Senjougahara’s suggestions in this episode), but Hanekawa points out the interesting part that Araragi is indeed “flirting” around as it were, even if that was not his intention in the first place.

    Dense Araragi is dense. He really needs to stop sinking in his own abyss of his own making.

    • Thanks for spotting the error /fixed.

      The thickness can get cloying depending on the viewer’s appreciation of the fanservice. It isn’t the fanservice itself doesn’t bother me as much as the way it’s being justified by the narrative structure.

      As for the denseness, Araragi is not a contemplative or reflective person. He acts rather quickly on his ‘helpful’ impulses, and he is rather weak as a man in general. His quality shines when he’s really committed to see someone’s salvation through, no matter who they are. This is complicated however, now that he actually lives for someone beyond himself.

  3. sadakups says:

    All I have to say is that while you point out Senjougahara’s disapperance, I’m actually elating about Hanekawa’s appearance. :P

  4. Vendredi says:

    This episode made me realize that Hanekawa is voiced by Horie Yui. HNNNNNNG.

    Obligatory aneurysm aside, as usual I’ll skip the commentary on the character development since you so adroitly cover it, and instead focus on digging into the supernatural nature of the plot…

    Note: Shinto is an animistic religion, based around the worship of kami – often translated as “gods” but can also be thought of as “spirits”. Essentially, natural objects have supernatural deities of a sort that watch over them – so one has kami for trees, kami for snakes, kami for birds, and so on and so forth. Consequently there are many hundreds of different kami, and plenty of temples dedicated to obscure kami to go around – giving us the starting scenario in Nadeko Snake 1.

    Here is the text from the opening flash of Nadeko Snake #1 (brought to you by Zetsubou-honed pausing reflexes!), which I feel reveals HUGE amounts of what is to come.

    “I let out a belated shout at the state of Sengoku Nadeko’s skin. All of her skin was covered in scale marks, from the tips of her toes up to her collar bones. Snugly. For a moment, I thought they were growing on her skin, but upon closer inspection, they weren’t. They were simply pressed on, like a woodcut.

    It looked like her skin had been pressed into a pattern. It looked like she was even bleeding internally here and there. Those painful looking scars made it look like she was bound with rope. No – bondage scars? Seriously, it was from the tips of her toes, up her legs, and along her body – it was like something was coiling itself around her.

    Something invisible.
    Scale marks, all along her body.
    Coiled around her.
    Coiled… as if she were possessed.

    Coil.

    At best, the only areas without scale marks were both her arms, and from her neck up. No need to get her to show me what her waist and lower abdomen looked like underneath those bloomers.”

    Note that Nadeko is not turning into a snake. Rather, there is the IMPRESSION of a snake left upon her body, as if a snake had constricted her and imprinted it’s scale pattern into her skin. A few implications of this:

    1) We see Nadeko leaving a shrine dedicated to a snake god (hebi, in Japanese. I am unsure if this will play out later in some form of wordplay, so I note it now.) Perhaps the snake god from this shrine is the one affecting her? If so, that would lead us to point #2… but first,

    1a) Meme sends Araragi to put a talisman on the snake shrine.

    Talismans in Shinto, or ofuda, are strips of paper with the name of the kami on them. They are to be renewed yearly, to appease the kami of the shrine and protect humans from the wrath of the kami the shrine is dedicated to.

    This implies that Meme is aware that there is some supernatural threat at that shrine. As the plot would have it, Araragi of course is too late to properly seal the snake god – it has already cursed Nadeko, who passes him and Suruga while they are climbing the stairs.

    2) Nadeko is killing snakes at the shrine. An attempt to break the curse brought upon her by the snake god of the shrine? An act of spiteful rebellion against the snake god?

    3) Suruga and Hanekawa both show signs of headaches or soreness in the presence of Nadeko. Migrains and similar muscle pains are both caused by the CONSTRICTION of blood vessels, further hammering home the idea of an invisible snake-god slowly constricting Nadeko and leaving imprints in her skin.

    Questions to ponder… why a snake? Why constriction? Perhaps a metaphorical “choking up”?

    • Vendredi says:

      You know, from now on I’m just gonna start posting these on my blog and stop cluttering your comments section… these are getting long.

    • Vendredi says:

      Oh, forgot to include:

      4) Nadeko states at the very end that “she hates her body”. Perhaps this is the typical pre-pubescent angst that teenage girls feel about their appearance, and especially – how THIN they are? In this sense then, Hebi-Kami is fulfilling Nadeko’s wish – she hates her current appearance, so the solution is to make her thinner by CONSTRICTING her.

      • Phäzys says:

        Or maybe her hating her body is a constriction, like how a lot of teenage girls feel constricted by everyone wanting them to have a certain appearance.

    • First off, you do want to post these on your blog — as they really stand on their own as speculative articles (and really interesting ones at that). However, they don’t clutter my comments section at all, FAR FROM IT.

      I think you deserve credit for what makes my posts interesting. I value discussion in my blogging experience most of all and you make a significant contribution to making my Bakemonogatari worthwhile for me.

      Now, onto your speculations:

      1) good to note this now; I won’t be surprised if Oshino is onto something, but alas too late as you said Nadeko is already afflicted by the monster/oddity.

      2) I call curse-breaking. After all, Nadeko called out to Araragi for help (stripping in outrageous fashion to show the marks of her affliction). This may indicate that she is at her wits end about this curse. After all, the most she can do to fight it is to browse through occult volumes at a bookstore.

      3) Metaphorical constriction is rather… cool. Good job on taking note of this!

      4) Oh oh, something to add on my part (finally): the snake grows/matures by shedding its skin. This may be of significance later on — regardless of how Nadeko may wish to get thinner, or grow bigger breasts (as she looks just fine to me).

      • Shinmaru says:

        The self-hatred/self-harm angle is the first one that popped into my head upon watching the episode. I couldn’t really think of anything else after watching Nadeko lay into those snakes, haha. I’m still trying to decide whether I believe she can literally feel the pain as she rips apart the snakes (who’s to say that she does not have a strong connection with them?), or if it’s a more symbolic act of self-harm for her.

        The skin/scale growth (puberty) and shedding (adulthood) aspect is something else I considered, as well. There is a lot of emphasis placed upon presenting Nadeko as a young girl who feels deep shame about her body, so that really jumped out at me. What has been troubling me a bit, though, is the connection (?) between Nadeko’s affliction and the pain Kanbaru felt at the shrine, and the headaches Hanekawa feels at the book store (remember that Nadeko is there, too, even though she does not interact with either Araragi or Hanekawa). The episode seems to frame Kanbaru and Hanekawa’s pain as a by-product of Nadeko’s presence. Maybe it’s a reaction to the intensity of the changes of Nadeko’s body? Then again, Kanbaru seems just fine when she is around Nadeko later in the episode …

  5. saturnity says:

    I’m tempted to think that this whole bait-and-switch gimmick is going to doom the show by the final episode. Shaft really has their work cut out for them if they want to make all of these events come full circle, if that’s even what they’re hoping to achieve.

    • I’m not sure I follow. I can imagine a number of scenarios wherein it all comes together neatly. For example, Senjougahara and Araragi simply have a conversation about the future, while Araragi shares his backstory (the whole business re being a vampire); from this experience both of them draw insight as to how to move on as a couple. It’s fairly straightforward, the fancy weird shit will come in the details.

  6. BluEnigma says:

    Some bits of more obscure trivia I’ve stumbled across, thanks to various other forums.

    Senjougahara’s birthday is mentioned in this episode as July 7th, or 7/7, or Tanabata (thus explaining the ending theme mentioning Deneb, Altair, and Vega.) It also means that she is a Cancer (The Crab, haha).

    Apparently, in the book, this is pointed out in the dialogue; Araragi responds that he thought she was a Gemini. Which means that he either doesn’t know zodiac dates very well, or that he’s using a variant zodiac, one which can include a 13th sign. This extra constellation is Ophiuchus, the Snake-Holder, who grasps the constellation Serpens, dividing it into two parts (Serpens Caput and Serpens Cauda), and who represents doctors, physicians, and healers.

    Thought this might interest you, GL.

    • I noticed the birthday mention, but you’ve done some interesting work on it!

      I’m unaware of a variant zodiac, and I’d be surprised if our rather unintellectual Araragi would know such. I only make the juxtaposition to myself because for a long time I was around people who were heavily into astrology. The presence of the extra constellation is interesting indeed given the nature of the arc. I wonder how this would fit in a 12-month calendar. Maybe Pluto (lol) is in retrograde or something.

      • BluEnigma says:

        I don’t know much astrology myself, but the Internet does. If you want to take a look at the source, it’s just the Wikipedia article on “Sidereal Astrology”.

  7. ZeroOBK says:

    “Oh yeah, before I forget to mention this entirely, Senjougahara did not make a ‘live’ appearance in this episode. She’s talked about and even quoted, but she does nothing here. It’s the first time it ever happened.”

    Suruga Monkey Part 2. Hitagi appeared and she did something, but it was short and inconsequential; it developed neither her relationship with Araragi nor did it develop the plot. One thing to note, is that in both episodes, Hitagi is still made relevant due to character motives and conversations.

    About the harem dynamic:
    It certainly is an awkward occurrence. Suruga is told to tease Araragi, yet she does not do much of that. If she doesn’t tease him, one would think that she’d try provoking him (like when she was swinging Araragi’s bag last episode) but she doesn’t do that either. This awkwardness only lasted for the first part of the episode though. Once Araragi spoke with Hanekawa, I felt that the harem dynamic faded away. Hanekawa was being helpful as always and Suruga had a legitimate reason to be near Araragi and she tries to find his porn, which is more in line with her personality.

    • Yeah in Suruga Monkey 2 she did appear and do something albeit inconsequential, but since she appeared directly I didn’t use that example.

      The harem dynamic is what I call the circumstance where

      1. Araragi is the only male character that qualifies as a love interest (due to age etc., sorry Oshino)
      2. The female characters all display/simulate romantic/sexual situations with Araragi

      It’s not just the teasing. Harem shows (games) have generic male leads, with as little personality as possible so as to make them blank: easier for the viewers/players (male) to make them avatars and allow them to fantasize about being in the romantic/sexual situations the character is in. Araragi on the surface fits the bill, but upon scrutiny I feel that he’s more a commentary on the reader/viewer/player rather than a device for the same to facilitate fantasizing about Senjougahara, Hanekawa, Shinobu, Hachikuji, Kanbaru, and Nadeko (and/or even Araragi’s imoutos). This is why I merely see a dynamic of harem media, and not call Bakemonogatari a harem work outright.

  8. Pingback: The Deathseeker » Blog Archive » Bakemonogatari 09 – Loliconmonogatari

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